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Police Complaints Board Urges Metropolitan Police Department to Publish Its General Orders and Directives Online

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Police Complaints Board (PCB) today submitted a recommendation to Mayor Anthony A Williams, the Council of the District of Columbia, and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Charles H. Ramsey urging MPD to publish its orders and directives on the Department’s website.

The Board reviewed the benefits of publication and concluded that police accountability in Washington, DC, would be enhanced by the availability of MPD’s orders on the Internet.

The MPD orders set forth policies and procedures governing a wide range of the police department’s activities, many of which involve encounters with citizens. Among other things, these orders guide police officers on the types of language and conduct that are acceptable to use towards the public, on how to enforce the traffic rules, and on the requirements for stopping people and frisking them.

“The advantages to citizens of knowing the policies of their police department far outweigh the minimal cost of adding the orders to MPD’s website,” said Philip K. Eure, the executive director of the Office of Police Complaints (OPC), which is governed by PCB. “It’s a question of open government and police accountability, and will enhance the relationship between MPD and the public.”

Officers could also benefit by having the bulky sets of orders made readily available to them through electronic means, whether officers need to retrieve the materials on their desktop computers or by mobile computers while in their patrol cars.

Reviewing the practices of several large cities such as Cincinnati, Denver, Minneapolis, Portland (Oregon), and Seattle, all of which publish their departmental orders online, the Board recommended that MPD also make its orders available to the public, at no cost, on its official website.

PCB issued the recommendation pursuant to its statutory obligation to, where appropriate, make recommendations to the Mayor, the Council, and the Chief of Police “concerning those elements of management of the MPD affecting the incidence of police misconduct, such as the recruitment, training, evaluation, discipline, and supervision of police officers.”

PCB is the governing board of the Office of Police Complaints (OPC). PCB and OPC together form the District of Columbia’s independent police accountability agency. The agency’s primary mission is to investigate and resolve individual police misconduct complaints filed by the public against MPD and DC Housing Authority Police Department (DCHAPD) officers.

PCB’s recommendation is available on OPC’s website, policecomplaints.dc.gov.

Publication of MPD Orders on the Internet [PDF]

For additional information or questions regarding this recommendation, contact OPC’s Public Affairs Specialist, Melanie L. Deggins, at (202) 727-3838.